At 64, Mike Merino says he’s only now learning what life is all about. It’s a tough lesson, with cancer serving as his teacher. But Mike tells Growing Bolder he has more hope than ever that the rest of his life can be the best of his life, and he’s inspired to help others get healthy and fit in their lives. Mike is sharing the amazing story of Andre Hicks-Dolphin here.
Just two years ago Andre Hicks-Dolphin weighed 493 pounds. Seeing her today at age 50, it’s hard to imagine that she was once stuck in what many call a “miserable cycle of morbid obesity.” That’s because as of this month she’s lost 178 pounds; she’s healthier, happier and ready to inspire others to make changes in their lives.
What makes this courageous women stand out among her peers is not only those triple digit pounds she recently sent packing; it’s that she did it despite two recent bouts with breast cancer and multiple chemotherapy treatments.
Just ask her, and she will tell you she achieved her second chance at life through hard work at the gym, a realistic diet and a new-found desire for health and wellness that she discovered through her strong religious faith and the power of prayer.
With today’s fit and active lifestyles you can find persons of all shapes, sizes and most importantly positive attitudes as they sign up for gym memberships, aerobic classes and weight reduction programs. On the forefront of this fit lifestyle explosion are uniquely special women breaking new ground in improved fitness, and massive weight loss, and doing it all without the aid of dangerous surgery or fad driven weight loss gimmicks. Andre could serve as the poster child for this movement.
A 1983 graduate of Tampa, Florida’s Jefferson High School, Andre grew up in Tampa’s Carver City neighborhood. Bad eating habits, together with little to no exercise fueled a continual weight gain throughout her adult life.
However, it was just two short years ago that Andre tipped her doctors’ scale at 493 pounds. Those dangerously excessive pounds, coupled with the fear and anxiety of her recently completed cancer treatments, left her devastated and with little hope of attaining a healthy life.
Then one day, a simple daily action, and a stern-but-loving observation by her sister, changed the trajectory of her life.
“I’ll never forget that dark day,” Andre said. “I was sitting on the front porch with my sister, who is my best friend. It was a casual Sunday afternoon after church, when I got up to go into the kitchen and check the progress of our family dinner.”
As usual, the meal consisted of an oversized batch of fried chicken, collard greens, macaroni and cheese and other fatty foods. Adding to the calorie bonanza: several trays of butter and sugar infused corn bread.
“When I returned, I was completely fatigued and could hardly breathe,” Andre said. “My sister looked at me, and said, with a frightened glare, ‘what’s wrong with you, sister — what do you want to do, die?” Andre said her sister had seen an “image of near death-like exhaustion” on her face.
“With her frightening words, something spiritual enveloped my entire body at that very moment and I knew then that a profound change was about to enter into my physically and mentally over-taxed existence,” she said.
As with other overweight people, her condition didn’t happen overnight. And in Andre’s case, depression, steroids for her cancer treatment and poor eating habits exacerbated her problem.
What Andre did next changed the course of her life forever.
More importantly, she did it all by herself:
- Set an appointment with her primary care doctor for a full medical evaluation.
- Signed up at a gym, where she goes five mornings a week, two hours a session. This included one hour of cardio and an hour of weight training.
- Connected with a life coach from a nationally recognized health supplement company. The coach made sure Andre stayed with the program by drinking the prescribed protein shakes and vitamin products.
- Refused to quit the program and kept believing she could do it.
- Prayed every day to give her strength to stay on a healthy path.
“The first week I lost 13 pounds,” she said. “I was so excited that I could actually see my hard work pay off. I stayed focused, rallied to the cause and made the life-changes necessary to be healthy, happy and spiritually strong.”
Post script: Although Andre continues to lose weight, at present she is facing another serious health challenge with a recent diagnosis of cancer of the spine. However, she’s not about to let this newest setback hold her back. The married mother of four still goes to the gym five mornings a week at 5:00 a.m. and has become a life coach herself.